The 2020 PCT State of the Wildlife Control Market survey found that about half (48 percent) of pest control operations in the U.S. offer wildlife control services. Of those that don’t, only 10 percent said they are considering adding these services over the next year. The others are content referring their customers to companies that specialize in wildlife.
“Our wildlife calls have really picked up over the past three years, so I do think every now and then about adding those services,” says Doug Foster of Burt’s Termite & Pest Control, Columbus, Ind. “But I keep coming back to the idea that we should stick with our strong suits: general pest, termite and bed bug. Wildlife work comes with a steep learning curve. We would need to make a substantial investment in training and equipment; I’m just not sure that makes sense when we have reliable business partners who are well-equipped to manage our customers’ wildlife issues.”
Foster echoes the concerns of many PMPs who prefer to refer wildlife control calls to other companies. Many find their relationships with wildlife control companies to be advantageous because these firms not only help their customers but also refer new general pest and termite work that they encounter.
That’s the case with Foster and Ben Breedlove of Indiana Wild Animal Management, whose reciprocal arrangement benefits them both. “Each of us gets calls for services outside of our respective areas of expertise; I send Doug insect and rodent calls, and he sends me requests for wild animal control,” says Breedlove. “It’s great because instead of ever telling a customer no, we can say, ‘I’ve got a guy who can help you with that.’ We work together on commercial jobs as well as residential, and it works really well for both of us.”
Larry Lumpkin, a 21-year pest management veteran who began his own company, Orion Pest Pros, just three-plus years ago in Maryville, Tenn., says the thought of getting into wildlife control services is overwhelming at this stage in his company’s development. “Humane trapping requires daily monitoring, or if you go with technology, it can be cost-prohibitive,” he says. “Another factor is determining what to do with the animal after it’s been trapped. Usually if a customer calls you to trap and remove, they don’t want the animal euthanized, and when they find out you can’t take them off the property because they could be a vector for rabies, they definitely don’t want them released back into their yard! I prefer to refer these customers to someone who does wildlife work exclusively.”
While he may not offer wildlife control services per se, Lumpkin is happy to educate his customers when they have nuisance wildlife issues. “I’ve had only a few requests for wildlife control to date. One I referred to a local company; the others were remedied by instructing the customers in proper exclusion techniques.”
WHO ELSE CALLS? The Wildlife Control Market survey unveiled another interesting fact: Even companies that offer wildlife services sometimes need a little help. Twenty-nine percent of such firms said they sometimes subcontract wildlife work to another company.
Keith Birkemeyer of ProBest Pest Management, Phoenix, Ariz., is one of them. “We do snakes, squirrels and some other wildlife work, but when we encounter coyotes and bobcats, we refer them to Critter Getter. We are not equipped for that.”
Chris Fitzgerald of Critter Getter Pest Control and Wildlife Services, also in Phoenix, says he gets referrals from a dozen or more pest management companies. “Some of them do squirrels or skunks, but they don’t have the equipment for larger animals,” he explains. “They refer them to us because they know we’ve made the investments in equipment and training and have the knowledge and capabilities to handle larger and often more dangerous animals.”
Among those animals is the javelina, or peccary, which Fitzgerald describes as a “wild pig of the desert” that’s about the size of a Labrador or a small pig.
“We have large cages for trapping javelinas, as well as catch poles to wrangle them,” he says. “This is expensive equipment that wouldn’t be used enough by a general pest control company to make the investment worthwhile. They know we’re here with the gear and the expertise, and so they come to us.”
Although wildlife is just a third of Critter Getter’s business, Fitzgerald has a strict policy of not encroaching upon the general pest business of customers referred to him by peer companies. “If a customer says, ‘While you’re here, can you help us with a general pest problem?’, we say ‘Sorry, we can’t offer you that service. You need to call your established pest control company for that.’”
It’s that kind of integrity — along with the specialized expertise — that makes pest management professionals value these partnerships so highly.